Be a Cheerleader for Women in Hollywood
Gone are the days when women were reduced to only secondary characters to support their man. Gone are the days when women in Hollywood were only there to look beautiful. And gone are the days when the only characters women could play were shallow or confined to stereotypically female roles like the cheerleader. Of course, all of the above still happens. Furthermore, female characters should represent a broad spectrum, whether that’s as a beautiful cheerleader or a fierce heroine. However, things are getting better and more varied for women in Hollywood, and that’s something to celebrate.
Who’s Leading the Pack?
June 2017 has seen the release of the heavily anticipated Wonder Woman movie, and it's great to see a female placed not as a support to other heroes, but as the main focal point herself. Gal Galdot’s portrayal of a fierce warrior from the DC Comics has already lead to a box-office smash hit– topping the $600 million mark already worldwide (variety.com - 2017).
Of course, Galdot is not the only one breaking down gender stereotypes. Many other women are hugely influential in Hollywood. Emma Watson, for example, has shown that she can be a brave but wildly intelligent Gryffindor fighter in Harry Potter, in addition to a selfless princess in 2017’s Beauty and The Beast. Every kind of girl can identify with Watson's work - from ladies snapping up Harry Potter wand make up brushes, to those interested in STEM, with a branded potions set (which we assume is a little like doing fun chemistry). Emma's work outside of acting as the UN Women Goodwill Ambassador (unwomen.org - 2017) cemented her as a champion for the rights of women. The Harry Potter phenomenon hasn't just provided a stage for Watson in Hollywood, it's provided a literal stage for a black woman, Noma Dumezweni, to have the chance to play Hermione in The Cursed Child play; thus further proving the franchise's inclusiveness. Then there’s Zendaya, who’s been cast in the next Spiderman movie and who’s tipped to make waves. And who could forget Tina Fey, who wrote Mean Girls, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Saturday Night Live, to name just a few? Obviously, it’s not just the super famous who should be getting credit as smart on screen and off; there’s now a lot more scope for women to be seen as multi-faceted – Hillary Hickam actually trained as a vet before becoming an actress!
There seems to be a girl power “gang” in Hollywood right now. Look at Kristen Wiig, who’s been in last year’s all-female Ghostbusters remake. That movie was said to break the mould, and brought in just over $229 million. Wiig appeared alongside hilarious co-star Melissa McCarthy, who’s also appeared in everything from The Boss (as the star) to long-running TV drama focusing on women The Gilmore Girls. Then you have Australian Rebel Wilson, too, who’s absolutely smashed it in all of the Pitch Perfect movies, as well as reclaiming sexuality for “bigger” women in a feminist victory in How To Be Single. But what do all these three women have in common? They all appeared in Bridesmaids. The 2011 comedy showed that anyone who naively believes stereotypes that women aren’t funny is sorely mistaken. Women can play the parts themselves, too. Like the Harry Potter franchise, Bridesmaids got its own merchandise and spin-offs (albeit not as extensively, of course). There is even an official slotmachine (betway.com - 2017) that helps hammer home the message of the movie - the “Friendship Bonus” and other features found that highlight that it’s the friendships women have that make the all-female, all-star film so great. In fact, this movie did so well that women are still talking about it today. The franchise heavily affects popular culture online – we’ve probably all seen the memes floating around, such as “help me, I’m poor!” showing that the movie is indeed relatable.
What Bias Still Exists?
Unfortunately, many still point to the beauty factor as still having a lot of influence in Hollywood. Dame Helen Mirren even said that Hollywood is ageist towards women, back in 2010. It’s a shame that this should matter – just look at Helen herself: the 71-year-old has won 25 awards across her career (and been nominated for 75), and there’s no sign of her slowing down or her appeal waning. However, she knows more than anyone that she has had to fight harder to be heard.
It’s also a shame that women’s roles seem to be less “meaty” or rounded than those of their male counterparts. Studies unfortunately show that dialogue for women is often lacking, even when they have lead roles. For example, in the 1999 movie 10 Things I Hate About You, despite a female lead, 52% of the talking was done by men, thanks to the supporting actors. In fact, the research – based on 2,000 movies – showed that white males overwhelmingly dominate movies, having on average about 60% or more of the dialogue, rising to an astounding 98% in classics like The Jungle Book. It needs to go further, too. In 2015, the Center for Women In Television & Film (womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu - 2017) said that only 11% of screenwriters and 7% of directors of the top 250 films are women. How else will our voices be heard?
Why Is This Important?
When people grow up not seeing themselves represented in the media, they do not know that anything is possible. Remember – “if she can see it, she can be it”. Let's hope for and work towards a future where women's voices in film are celebrated even more.